If you are spending over an hour a day on emails there are some golden rules to save you time, as David Parmenter explains*.

* This article is an extract from The leading Edge Manager’s Guide to Success published by John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Finance teams, and those staff within them, cannot afford to have their working day dominated by emails.  Yet, modern technology has helped us develop poor work habits that are adversely affecting our job satisfaction, productivity and sanity. We need to take charge by adopting these rules.

Rule #1: Never open emails before 10.30am

In the good old days, we would handle mail at 10:30 a.m. when the mail finally arrived from the mailroom. We thus started the day with scoring a goal—undertaking a service delivery activity. Now the first thing we do is open up the email and suddenly one hour has evaporated. Some of us even get interrupted every time a new email arrives. As a therapy I suggest not opening your email until after your morning coffee and then only looking at emails at one or two more intervals during the day. If something is very important you will get a phone call.

Rule #2: You are not Barrack Obama so do not live and sleep with your Blackberry!

Most of us (fortunately or unfortunately) are not heart or brain surgeons. Our work is not critical to life. Many emails we handle have little or no relevance to where we or our organizations want to go. The silliest thing is surely to handle an email twice, once on the Blackberry “Will get back to you when in the office” and once in our computer.

Rule #3: The five sentence rule

Treat all email responses like SMS text messages and limit them to something you can count easily—five sentences. A campaign has been started see wwwfivesentence.es. Ensure all terms, conditions, papers are attached to the email. This has the added benefit of ensuring that your email will not be a critical company document. This way you have a full record filed in your document management system.

Rule #4 Have an attention grabbing header

Make the header the main message of the email. If you cannot think of a good email header maybe you should not send the email

Rule #5 Actively terminate email exchanges

Manage your email exchanges. If you need feedback in order to get to a closure, often a phone call is better. Ping pong emails on the same topic are screaming out for” Lets speak tomorrow!” Think about you desired outcome and promote a course of action to avoid the table tennis. If necessary use the “No more emails on this one thank you”.

Rule #6 Promote yourself by your endeavors not by your use of broadcast emails, reply all or copy correspondence (cc)

Avoid sending broadcast emails unless you are prepared to call up each person to advise them that there is a key document that they need to read. Ensure that you do not add to the “spam” in your organization. Forwarding business material may be well meaning but it is creating havoc in many organizations, where frequently managers are receiving up to 240 emails a day. Ask yourself is it necessary to copy the CEO—just for visibility?